After spending most of the hour of “Live Free and Twihard” at the edge of my seat, clutching onto a pillow with my jaw hanging open, when it was all over I looked at my husband after a few minutes of stunned silence and finally mustered a sentence.  “How am I going to review that?”  It is definitely a one of a kind, out of the box episode.  It’s also this show continuing to push boundaries and I couldn’t be happier.  
Here’s a confession, I don’t watch much horror.  I actually hate most horror films, unless they’re a thriller like Poltergeist or a brilliant spoof like Shaun of The Dead.  â€œLive Free and Twihard” goes for the extreme type of horror that this show has always aspired but has been bound by the limits of television.  No limits here.  Granted my ability to compare how terrifying this episode is relation to most horror films is limited, but I can honestly say this scared the crap out of me and left me quite bothered by the end of it.  I haven’t felt this way after a “Supernatural” episode since “Bloody Mary” and compared to “Live Free and Twihard” that episode now looks like a low budget amateur piece.
 
Not too long ago, I watched “The Magnificent Seven.”  That’s when I realized how much the production value of “Supernatural” has dramatically increased since that time.  The stories are more complex, the pacing faster, the acting more layered, and every aspect of the production from set decoration to lighting to editing to direction goes for something different each time the Winchesters face their weekly struggle.  Shows evolve, characters evolve (for better or worse), but most shows go into a form of autopilot after several seasons.  That’s not happening here by any stretch of the imagination.  
 
Sam and Dean have faced impossible circumstances before.  I didn’t think it could have gotten much worse for them than the events in “Swan Song” but once again I’m proven wrong.  What could be worse than facing Lucifer and Armageddon?  Easy, having your own brother willingly watch you turn into a hideous monster out of curiosity and the desire for information.  The person you’ve relied on your entire life to cover your back, help keep you out of harms way.  Sadly, Dean has to go through a terrifying ordeal to finally see the truth about Sam and it ends up being Samuel, not Sam, that comes through for him.  
 
New Blood
 
If a show is going to re-invent itself, bringing in new blood helps.  This week, this very frightening script came from new writer to “Supernatural” and Whedon alum Brett Matthews (Firefly, Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer).  It was shot by seasoned director but also new to the show Rod Hardy.  These two guys really ran with it, bringing something completely new and avant garde. The vampire story starts out as an innocent spoof.  The whole Twilight craze has young girls throwing themselves at real vampires.  They all learn though vampire life isn’t all romance and passion.  As the lead vamp Boris notes, this is the best time to be a vampire in six hundred years.  “Dracula, Ann Rice, please.  These stupid little brats are so horny they’ve re-invented us as prince charming with a Volvo.”
 
As soon as Dean has his first encounter with Boris though, this little spoof on the emo vampire culture turns very dark.  The first major sucker punch comes from Sam watching Dean turn with the curiosity of a scientist watching a lab rat (more on that a little later).  The real terror though comes from seeing the life of a vampire through Dean’s eyes.  His experiences add a richness to something we’ve seen before, probably because it’s a character whom we’re so emotionally invested and Jensen really nails his performance.  Like the others he’s sensitive to light, hears clocks ticking too loud, can smell humans in a way that makes him crave their blood, and can hear hearts beating so loud it drives him mad.  Of course he instantly knows something isn’t right when he hears Sam’s heartbeat.  It’s steady and not freaked out at all.  That right there makes Dean’s situation more frightening.  
 
The creep fest carries on in perfect swing when Dean bails from the motel room to say goodbye to Lisa.  This adds another deep heartbreak to Dean’s situation.  He wants to say goodbye, he wants to thank her properly, but he’s already too far gone.  He ends up scaring her and Ben so badly because of his desire to feed that chances are he’s irreparably ruined his relationship with them.  That makes Sam’s actions that much more unforgivable, for he’s sacrificed his brother’s happiness too for his own curiosity.  Sam doesn’t care about the consequences anymore, just the end result.

Then there’s Dean’s time in the nest, which he can easily find and get into since he’s one of them.  This entire sequence is a nail biter and perfectly executed from beginning to end.  It’s creepy, eerie, trippy, and a trite homoerotic, which never really plays comfortably around Dean.  The master plan is dastardly, recruiting people by luring them through attraction.  People desire romance and that desire ends up being a one way trip to an eternity connected to the alpha, following his orders mindlessly.  Their job eventually becomes bringing others into the fold.  The part when all the vampires, including Dean, collapse and are psychically connected to the alpha is mind-blowing.   
 
One thing these vamps didn’t count on though is Dean is one scary mofo when vamped up.  He takes out the entire nest single handedly, including the guy that turned him.  The choice to not show Dean take out Boris is a brilliant move, for we have already seen how lethal Dean is with the others.  The discovery of him by Sam and Samuel in his unhinged yet controlled state, his foot resting on Boris’ head, makes Dean’s altered condition that much more powerful and dramatic, not to mention that much more alarming.  
 
Also scary and dramatic, Dean’s entire process changing from vamp back to normal.  What a spectacular scene!  Once he got through the projectile vomiting of black gunk, seeing Dean go through that freakish transformation is one of the most gut wrenching things I’ve ever seen on this show.  Bravo to Jensen Ackles for pulling off such an intense moment.  Eventually Dean collapses and his entire time as a vampire is played backward in his mind.  It all ends in the alley where he was turned and he vividly sees the truth.  Sam is not only watching him turn, he’s smirking.  Oh Dean, what have you done to deserve this?  
 
As for Sam, I tried people, I tried.  In four season six reviews I’ve come up with good ways to defend Sam Winchester and understand his actions.  I speculated he had PTSD, that he didn’t know the baby was bait, that he’s shaken from his time in Hell but now I give up.  No more benefit of the doubt, the guy is truly without scruples.  Of all people to watch and be turned into a vampire without any concern, he did that to Dean?  Dean?  How Sam got that way makes for some really great speculation, but the fact is here’s there.  His conversation with Samuel lets us know in a veiled way that he’ll do whatever it takes and sacrifice whoever to get there.  He’s been eager to get to the vampire alpha and putting Dean in harms way got them that access.  He knew there was a cure and hope for Dean recovering, but there’s no longer a human cost analysis in his decisions.  Dean went through a horrific experience to get that info and all Sam wanted to know was what it was like in the nest.  He didn’t even want Dean to take the cure until he found out what it was like inside even though his brother was clearly suffering.  I’m not sure if his actions can be redeemed anymore and it does sadden me to say that.  I’m not giving up, but man, how can what he’s doing be justified?
 
This is where I’ve got to give huge kudos to Jared Padalecki.  What he’s doing with Sam this season is not easy for any actor.  It’s counter intuitive, taking a long established character that had such big heart and redeemable qualities and play him so cold and morally bankrupt.  He’s had to reinvent his character yet still show some glimpses of familiar.  It’s quite incredible what he’s been able to pull off so far.  Sure, it’s very unsettling to fans but if anything that proves he’s doing his job right.          
 
If there’s one bonus to this heart crushing development in the family drama, Samuel isn’t the baddie we thought he is.  Someone has to be looking out for Dean and luckily Grandpa comes through.  Samuel had his doubts about Dean, but this situation if anything erased them.  Dean seems to have shaken off whatever rust he accumulated in his year out of the game and now that Samuel is starting to see Sam’s true colors, maybe welcoming his other grandson into the fold isn’t such a bad idea.  More coming on that though, but it’s nice to see Grandpa in a different light.  
 
I’m also in awe over Dean managing to hold onto the knowledge that Sam turned on him without walking away or going off in a major confrontation.  Granted that’s coming next week, but Dean is trying to be smart about it.  He wants to believe it isn’t Sam, but something or someone else.  He knows the real Sam wouldn’t act like this.  I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do and find out about this unimaginable betrayal.  
 
“Live Free and Twihard” isn’t flawless, for the front part of the story is slow and the spoof of the current vampire craze doesn’t really succeed.  From the second Dean steps into the alley though, everything takes off and is pitch perfect.  The episode left me utterly speechless and drained, which alone tells me it had something special.  My overall grade is an A-, an A+ from the point Dean is turned.  Now I’m looking forward to next week, hoping that Dean gives Sam the ass kicking that is so deserved.      

Comments  

CitizenKane2
# CitizenKane2 2010-10-25 02:26
Another masterly review on this site. :-)

I'm afraid I can't agree that 6.05 is an "A" - it was depressing (for me) to watch what Sam did to Dean, even if it was to develop the story arc. I do have some residual concerns about how Sam's character (assuming that the "real Sam" features at all in Season 6 !) will pan out ultimately this Season.

But I do agree that this episode had many stellar moments, particularly in the second half, as you have pointed out. Dean does make a cool vampire. (Part of me wonders who would win in a fight between vampire!Dean and demonblood!Sam ...) [And who are the creepy twins ?!]

I also ike how Samuel's character was protrayed in this episode as having some redeeming qualities. (Why didn't the rest of the Campbells come though to help Dean - didn't Samuel think that taking down a nest of vampire would require more manpower ?)

I do wonder whether Sam would have gone through with Samuel's plan to cut down Dean, had Dean drank human blood (after Dean returned from his visit with Lisa) - not out of any brother concern, but because Sam would have lost his acccess to the vampire's nest and the alpha vampire. He did look a bit hesitant when Samuel said that they had to do the right thing.

I also wonder why Sam didn't tell Dean about the cure, before Samuel did. Sam could have still advanced his plan to have access to the vampire nest by telling Dean that one of the components for the cure is the blood of the vampire that bit him.

Finally, I agree completely with your statement that Season 6 is anything but "autopilot" - the first five episodes alone have been quite a (mostly enjoyable)rolle r coaster ride ! :-)
Rlwgsd
# Rlwgsd 2010-10-25 05:00
First Alice your review was AMAZING and spot on. But Also I would love to know what Jared Padalecki thinks about everybody being out for Sam's blood next week. Personally I want the sneek peek this week to be of Dean kicking Sam's ass. that being said i still love Sam and have hope for his redemption.
Kellymom
# Kellymom 2010-10-25 07:51
I'm right there with you, Alice! The writing,directi ng and acting this season have been admirable--I think we're all (mostly) feeling exactly what they want us to feel. Off-balance, on-edge, and uncomfortable with what's happening with the boys. If the plans for the resolution of the season are on par with the uneasiness of the beginning, this could be one of the most exciting seasons yet! However, if Sam's arc in particular is not resolved with enough satisfaction (at this point I couldn't even speculate about any specifics there other than the boys believably reconciling) this could be the most disappointing season yet. I still have faith that we're headed for the former option!
elle2
# elle2 2010-10-25 09:29
Alice,

A great review from you. It's interesting that I find myself so enthused from your review when I disagree about the grading of the episode, I gave it a C-, but the enthusiasm in your review is contagious and I find myself looking forward to watching it a 'second time through your eyes' when your recap arrives' (Yes, I'm eagerly awaiting your recap for this one and that's from the strength of your review.)

I think the reasons I didn't like this one WILL change once the season as a whole is shown which is often the case which is why I do try to not judge the direction of the storyline until we see all of the storyline (or at least all that a single season is showing us)

I do think there are some very crucial, even pivotal, moments in this episode and my hope is that this episode is the catalyst to take us to some answers over the next several episodes.

You really brought out the elements that I think this episode was supposed to show us, how morally bankrupt Sam is at this moment (the whys still remain a question), how Samuel may not be fully trustworthy but that he does care about his grandsons and especially the experience of being a vampire as seen through Dean. I hadn't truly appreciated that aspect of the episode until you highlighted it.

It's interesting to see Dean's strength here (if I can love on Dean a bit) in that Gordon was a very focused, obsessed (all right, very determined :P ) hunter and yet he couldn't control his impulse once he was turned. Granted, Gordon was willing to die (at least he paid that constant lip service) but he did feed. Dean didn't, Dean managed to control those impulses so that he could be saved and he did it all without Sam's help (soooooo sad :sad: )

An excellent review, Alice, for it caused me to see things a little different as well as see some things I hadn't missed and leaves me a bit more excited about an episode I didn't enjoy in the first place.

Well done!
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-10-25 12:02
Alice, great review as always. Sam's actions are really unacceptable from the family POV, and the hero POV. Dean has always been about family, first and foremost his brother. Sam let Dean think he was dead for a year, was so cold when he reunited with Dean then uses him as bait. Now Dean is completely alone, no Lisa, no Ben, and no Sam. Samuel did stick up for Dean, but we all know Samuel has his own agenda, though maybe it’s not to hurt his grandsons. One has to wonder why Samuel didn’t realize way before now that something was wrong with Sam. He had a year after all.

What Dean didn’t smack the sh*t out of Sam I don’t know. Yes…we do get to see that next week, but I don’t think even that will be enough. This show is supposed to be about family and for 2 years we have watched the deterioration of the brother’s relationship. It’s supposed to be about heroes, but heroes, no matter what, do not loose there compassion, morality or integrity, that’s why they are heroes. This is NOT something I expect from the ‘powers that be’. I think the show runners have just gone too far and don’t see how they can ever repair this damage. I can’t think of anyway this could be justified for me. No way should they have done this to the brothers.

As for Dean Winchester...th is is much more like the Dean of the first three years. True the old Dean would have smack Sam as soon as Sam showed up a year later. (Actually the ‘old’ Dean would never have left hunting, or stopped working with Bobby, or NOT known his brother was back.) He took out a whole next of vamps by himself, and even all ‘vamped’ up, THAT was impressive! So nice to see Dean is every bit the hunter he has always been. That last shot of Dean sitting with Boris was just chilling, and the look on his face. Maybe it was best he didn’t know what Sam had done at that point.

As for the script, acting, directing, superb! This is something else that was sorely lacking last season, high quality horror stories with strong dialog, strong attention to detail, and consistency. It’s too bad that the writers couldn’t have stuck to ‘strong’ brothers as well.
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-10-25 14:39
Hi Alice - another great review and I do agree with the A-+ rating. I didn't right after I saw the episode as I was so shook up and disgusted with roboSam. But boy I sure loved to see the return of badass Dean, who even turned to a vampire was hero enough to abstain from his hunger and demolish the whole nest. Bravo!

Now what I have in my head is that the Sam we've seen so far this season has no Sam about him at all, but is an imposter or replica Sam (where the real Sam is is worrying indeed) as there is no way the real Sam would stand by smirking as his beloved brother is hurt and he could have prevented it. I CANNOT believe that that creature is our Sammy at all!! Great acting by Jared in that case. :shock:

Thinking this way will help me to enjoy rather than despair while watching future episodes. Hope to God I'm thinking correctly.LOL. :-?

Can't believe that the PTB would risk absolutely ruining a great character if they don't have a fantastic solution to eventually let us in on. :sad:
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-10-25 14:45
Adding this:

This phoney Sam wouldn't have wanted to contact Dean because he would think that Dean would realize in no time that he was not Sam. So going to be with the Campbells would be the smart thing to do as none of them are familiar with the real Sam at all and would presume he was the real deal. Samuel never knew the real Sam Winchester.

Just my theory folks! ;-)
magichappening
# magichappening 2010-10-25 15:15
Loved your review Alice. Reading your review and recap are important weekly Supernatural rituals for me :-)

Your point about Samuel was interesting. I still do not trust him though. Someone brought up a Sam with split personality theory on another thread on your site which I find fascinating. What if Samuel is somehow manipulating the 'flips' and then messing with Sam...a bridge too far maybe? He has an agenda which he is hiding from both brothers though. What is it? Jared is really creeping me out!

Think Jensen was phenomenal this week. As you point out, he was impressive/real ly freakin’ hot (!) slaughtering all those vamps and he took us right along with him when he was going through the torture of the cure. And then he broke my heart yet one more time at the end with how he looked at Sam when Sam lied to him.

But Sablegreen I think the fact that he has not smacked Sam shows how much Dean grown and changed as a character. Methinks he may be reaching the end of his tether though…

Kudos to Supernatural overall though. Once again they pulled off a movie-quality hour on a TV budget. AND once again made fun of a premise and then used it later on and we buy it! e.g. last season, Dean mocked the fact that the power of love was going to save the world and we laughed, and then Sam was pulled back from the brink by his love for Dean and family. In the same way, they spoof the whole vampire ‘I love you but am dangerous so I can't be near you but I have to come and stand in your bedroom’ and then Dean does the exact same thing to Lisa (down to the book cover) and it works completely! Even when in the middle of the scene he actually says 'Oh God, I’m Pattinson' it somehow does not detract from the intensity. Sheer brilliance. Mr Ackles, once again, I salute you.

Tangent: Someone else brought this point up elsewhere. When Sam wanted to know what it was like in that nest, the exact words he said were 'What did you see?' Not ‘do’. ‘See’. Is it about the visions? Think that might be important. But who the hell knows at this point!

And why did all the vamps fall down together (amazing montage by the way!) from the vision. Was that guy with the two little girls the Alpha? What was he pointing to? Did the Alpha die or lose its power? Did Samuel do something? Is the fact that everyone fell important? Surely that can't be a regular occurrence? Leaves all the vampires completely vulnerable...I guess Dean would have known if that had happened. I agree though that the whole psychic connection is mind-blowing. And has it always been there or did the Apocalypse trigger something?

Curiouser and curiouser is definitely where we are (Sorry, Alice. Stealing your lines.)

:-)
Kellymom
# Kellymom 2010-10-25 15:32
Not sure if this is the best place to post this thought, but the preview for next week's episode has hit me two ways--one exciting, one worrisome. First off, I want to see Dean kick Sam's butt. I love Sam and I am waiting to love him again, but his butt deserves some kicking! However, has anyone else had the thought that the preview points towards a Truth that we're all going to find hurts quite a lot? Right now Dean thinks that Sam can't be the real Sam. But what if the Truth (the one the promo says is going to "Hurt") is that it *is* Sam--and we're all going to have to accept that the real Sam could somehow have made these choices. If the Truth is that it isn't the real Sam in there, then Dean (and us) will be relieved--not hurt. Which makes me think it won't be the answer!
AndreaW
# AndreaW 2010-10-25 15:49
Good points, Kellymom. Now it depends on who is going to be hurt by the Truth. Is it Dean? I don't think so because the previews say that SAM is handling the Truth and DEAN is reeling. If Sam can actually be hurt by such Truth, whatever it is, it means that he can't be completely soulless.

We know by the previews that Dean asks Bobby's and Castiel's help. I'm hopeful with the possbility that they might have something to say, especially Bobby who had contact with Sam during the year after his return. Maybe this is the episode when some answers will start to appear.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-10-25 17:16
oh,Alice, I am still reeling in the wake of this episode. Writing my Open Couch (just finished it and will send it after another read-through tomorrow, need sleep now) I feel drained and that hasn't happened in a long time over a freakin' tv show. That alone indicates to me how special this episode was/is.

It's not my favourite one, but it's one of the most disturbing, most agonizing, most fascínating... and polarising. I always like that about a show.

Love Jas
mia1986
# mia1986 2010-10-25 18:09
I don't agree with your review well parts of it Dean went to thank Lisa. Dean went Sam didn't put a bullet to his head also who said he was so blissfully happy with Lisa??
Sarahz
# Sarahz 2010-10-25 18:17
If Sera Gamble is writing "our" Sam this way and it turns out he has been the "real" Sam all along, then she has gone round the bend. What show runner/head writer in their right mind ruins a character so thoroughly, so completely, makes him so evil that he is hated and completely irredemable?

I still have faith in Sam. If my faith is misplaced, so be it, but I do not think the Sam we see on the screen is the real Sam or a complete Sam. Split personality/dea l with Crowley/part of soul left in hell - one of these reasons must be why he is acting the way he is.

And I think things will get worse before they get better. This week is just episode 6. TPTB probably will drag out the angst and tension for a long time.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2010-10-25 18:21
Alice, your article took me out of the funk I was in because, despite your disappointment and anger you haven't given up, and if someone as invested as you hasn't given up, then we should all have hope.

There WAS a reason for what Sam did. I don’t know how it can be justified but it will be. I was told to have a bit of trust in the writers (thanks Yvonne) and after a momentary lapse, I do. Sammy is still there, buried deep maybe, but he’s there. When, where, why and how he'll come back I’ve no clue, but when it happens (and it WILL happen), it’s going to be epic.

What also excites me is that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any one episode, any one action, instigate as much passion and debate from viewers as this one has. Apparently the viewing numbers are quite high so the writers know what they’re doing and the Sam storyline is too consuming and it stirs the viewer’s blood too much for it to have anything by a satisfactory conclusion.

I’m admiring Dean more and more in this season and while vampire Dean didn’t do it for me (vampires in general don’t do it for me), it showed how formidable a foe he truly is. Vampires, demons etc should run before this guy and his blade. 'Run away, run away....'

I was also hugely impressed by the fact he didn’t call Sam out at the end of the episode. I think the reason Dean didn’t kick Sam’s ass yet (apart from the fact he couldn’t reach that high, ha ha ha....) is because his concern has taken precedence over his anger, which is a great way for him to be in terms of Sam because a worried Winchester is a productive Winchester. He will find out what’s going on, no doubt about it. If he has to jump into the Pit and start asking questions, he will. That’s the brotherly relationship that hooked us all.

Alice, I’m also joining you in the applause for JP’s performance all this season. It must be difficult to take a character you’ve played for five years, twist it into something unrecognisable but still make it so that people care about him. Awesome job you’re doing there, Mr. P.

Y’know, it’s always darkest just before the dawn and things are pretty dark right now. The dawn, when it comes.... it's going to be beautiful.
AndreaW
# AndreaW 2010-10-25 18:34
Why didn't Dean kick Sam's ass? Because concern took precedence, of course (thanks again Tim The Enchanter). Dean will never ever ever give up on his brother, even if all of us do. He is the one who will bring (the real) Sam back, just like Sam did with him in Point of No Return. Sam's case is much worse, of course, but the fact remains that it's Dean to the rescue.
Suze
# Suze 2010-10-25 18:38
Blimey. So Grandaddy Eyebrows isn't as black as we've been painting him and Sam is several shades blacker. Lurking and smirking in the background while your nearest and supposedly dearest gets chomped by Fat Freddy Fabulous Freak Brother's evil twin is really pretty low even for him.

I have no idea where the writers are going with this. I've always had a soft spot for Sam and all his previous spectacular f*ck-ups have been lurched into with the best of intentions but this new cold-blooded-ra tbag version doesn't appeal to me at all. I wish they'de come up with a new angle, though, as we've had five seasons of the whole Sam-Is-He-Evil- Or-What conundrum and it's all getting a bit tired.

That said, I thought this was a great episode, I haven't heard Bela Lugosi's Dead for ages and ages and I'm dying for next week's punch-up ...
nancyL
# nancyL 2010-10-25 19:09
Alice, as always, great review.

The beginning of the episode to me, was just blah, blah, blah. :lol: :lol: :lol:
Then, once Sam and Dean where on the screen, then SUPERNATURAL started.

In 'Exile..' we were led to believe that Grandpa was just tolerating Dean for Sam's sake. But now after 'Live..', we see that Grandpa actually cares about Dean and maybe is weary of Sam. I hope this new found love for Grandpa doesn't end up biting us in the butt later on.

The whole time that Sam watched Boris and Dean, I just kept thinking WTF, WTF, WTF :o
You are right, he was looking upon this as an experiment. 'Oh Dean is going to become a vamp, I wonder how he(Dean) will react?'

Sam's reactions go beyond PTSD. I hope that we find out that something was done to Sam and that he will return to being the Sam that we all love. Dean could use some love right now, I do not see Lisa and Ben being comfortable with him anymore. :sad:

Afterwards, when Dean was cured and saw Sam in the alley, I am sure that he needed time to actually realize that Sam could have prevented Boris from turning him and yet didn't. Then, when he questioned Sam on having his back, and Sam lied to his face, Dean needed to process that as well. Dean needs a hug. :-)

Keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that this week, we will get some answers.